Reflections for parents of exceptional children

 

Your child is exceptional.

Often parents worry about their children. “ I just want him to be normal” echoed from a parent. Normal compared to whom? I thought to myself. The truth is our children are authentically amazing. Take the limits off. We often hear our children have disabilities and need to be “rehabilitated”. Refuse to look at your children through broken lenses! Should we listen to people who do not holistically see our children? If all they see are imperfections and the desire to fix, they will not see progress.

Shower your child with affection.

Make it a point to declare “ I love you” to your child. Sometimes, we are so busy with the details of work, school etc. We shortchange ourselves by forfeiting an opportunity to verbalize our feelings to our children. We tend to highlight mistakes and negative behaviors. Let us focus on strengthening our relationship with our children.

You have the right to be yourself.

We are our worst critics as parents. We worry about how others perceive our parenting skills. If our child has a meltdown in a public, we may become hypervigilant and monitor our environment for fear of being shamed. Thankfully, we can not control how others perceive us. It’s exhausting. Stop, take a deep breath and unapologetically be yourself.

Practice Patience Daily.

Patience is essential. Celebrate the hourly successes, learn from the challenges and savor the special moments. Patience requires intentional action. Each day we must remind ourselves to deliberately practice patience.

Beware of isolation.

Isolation can make us feel alone and scared. It can distort our perceptions, experiences, and thoughts. You are not alone, there is support. Just as the African proverb says “It takes a village, to raise a child”. It takes a community of support to assist exceptional families. No matter the circumstances, keep a list of referrals/resources to utilize you are in need.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

Feelings and emotions are natural parts of our lives. In this journey, you may find yourself stuck, depressed, sad or overwhelmed. If so, please reach out to a support group, or mental health professional.

Reclaim your power from fear.

Fear exists in our lives. It can help set boundaries and provide a sense of safety. However, if we give fear too much power, it can cripple us. Fear is meant to be managed. Its presence is welcome but it cannot have absolute power.

Practice self-compassion.

Jack Kornfield quoted “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”. Self-compassion is key. Take some time to replenish and nurture yourself. How can you continue to pour into your children when you are burned out? Re-evaluate your self-care regimen. It could be a cup of coffee or tea. A manicure or pedicure, some sleep, reading a book, talking to a supportive friend or treating yourself to a movie.

Forgiveness is calling you.

At some point in our exceptional journey, the words “if only” may haunt us. We wonder whether our actions indirectly influenced our children’s diagnosis. For example, If only, I had called the doctor more often during pregnancy. “If only, I had realized something was wrong”. The above are valid concerns, they are not the determining factors of your child’s diagnosis. Pause, breathe, be mindful of this very moment and allow “if only” to dissolve.

 

Lastly, Thank you for your sacrifices, amazing courage and beautiful spirit. The journey is not easy but collectively we can draw strength, resources, and support.

 

                                                                                                                         Prosline Saint-Armand

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